2021 OEDC Stakeholder Report

Business Training and Education & State Marketing

To strengthen communities in rural and underserved parts of the state, the OEDC manages programs and services designed to support entrepreneurship, encourage new business enterprises, grow local businesses organically and take second-stage businesses to the next logical level of growth, such as being ready to successfully export. This ecosystem includes programs focused on ideation, technical assistance, training and education and small business growth, from ideation through the second-stage. This unit also directs the state’s business attraction, retention and investment marketing strategies, including the Choose Washington, Maritime Blue and Startup Washington websites. In response to COVID-19, the team realigned all its programming to focus on helping viable small businesses stay in business, help business owners rebuild or restart enterprises, and provide entrepreneurs with the tools and skills needed to start a new business, such as the new Startup Academy and ScaleUp programs.

The “economic gardening” program was approved as a pilot in 2016 to gauge the effectiveness of a strategy for taking second-stage companies to the next level by removing roadblocks to growth. The spike in 2017 was due to our county partners paying for the course fees for enrolled businesses. In 2019, a new contractor was selected and the program had to go through a name change to comply with trademark protections. It is notable that even in the pandemic when businesses were struggling with sales and many were closing, eight second-stage businesses went through the program. The pandemic continued to affect the pipeline as many target companies entered a period of uncertainty and held off on any new initiatives.

ScaleUp is a small business program targeted to businesses that have been in operation for two years or more with $100,000 in revenue (pre-COVID). Conducted in conjunction with the Thurston County EDC, ScaleUp was piloted as an in-person series in 2019 in Skagit and Yakima counties, and then moved online when the pandemic struck, allowing more participants to participate in the revised format. In 2021, the program is being modified to use a train-the-trainer format, which will allow more trainers to teach ScaleUp throughout the state. Using this format, OEDC estimates we will eventually be able to move 500 to 1,000 small businesses statewide through the eight-week program annually as the economy enters the endemic stage.

Global Entrepreneurship Month (GEM) is a month-long version of Global Entrepreneurship Week, which is an international celebration of entrepreneurship filled with seminars, workshops and competitions. Washington has been a leader in hosting these events since its inception. Working closely with local economic development partners, the state has exposed more than 16,000 residents to the idea of starting and running their own business. GEM set a record for events and participation in 2019, with 312 events held statewide, thanks to partnerships with chambers, schools, libraries and economic development organizations. In light of the pandemic, the OEDC small business team had to pivot, redesigning the entire series to be online. It was a rousing success. Registrants were able to hear from a slate of top-notch subject matter experts on topics ranging from what business structure to choose to how to sell online. Based on the success of this new model, the OEDC will be expanding its online GEM concept further in 2021.

MyStartup365.com serves as an online clearinghouse of information to spur entrepreneurship, help small businesses succeed and help second-stage companies grow exponentially. The site includes resources, training education, programs, events and tools for starting and growing a small business, from ideation through the optimization phase when a company is ready to seek investment, begin exporting or be ready for an acquisition or merger. Due to the pandemic, traffic in 2020 increased greatly. The chart shows the number of unique visitors to the site, not including those seeking information about Working Washington grants, which would put the number of unique visitors at 406,646 instead of the 128,961 shown. Interest in additional resources has increased significantly and Commerce responded by adding new programs, including an enhanced ScaleUp series and the new Entrepreneur and Restart Academies.

ChooseWashington.com is the state’s business attraction and recruitment website, designed to showcase the state’s competitive advantages, key sectors, workforce, quality of life and available properties and land for suitable for development. During the pandemic, site visits grew significantly, in part because of the uneven effect COVID had on the economy, where some sectors grew relatively unscathed by the effects of stay-at-home orders or phased openings. This chart demonstrates continued interest in Washington as a place to do business. It is undergoing a full redesign in 2021 as the economy starts to recover.

  • Working Washington Round 1 grant size: $10,000 per business.
  • Working Washington Round 2 grant size: $2,500 to $10,000. Administered by ADO network.
  • Resiliency Grants awards were $8,000 per business. 660 supplemental grants of $4,500 were awarded in Round 3 of Working Washington.
  • Working Washington Round 3 grant size was $12,500 per business.
  • Working Washington Round 4 grant size was up to $25,000 per business.
  • An additional $300,000 in relief grants awarded to 43 shellfish growers.